Jewish Studies


Ellen Newman was born in 1953 in Bronx Hospital. Both sets of grandparents had immigrated to New York City as young children and her parents were both raised in the Bronx. She attended PS 114, by Yankee Stadium, Macombs Junior High School, Taft High School, and Lehman College for both her bachelor’s and master’s. Her family would go to upstate New York in the summers, and her father was an accountant and her mother was a bookkeeper. Newman lived in the Highbridge neighborhood of the Bronx until her family moved to Scott Towers, a Mitchell Lama Co-op. The Highbridge neighborhood is remembered as ethnically mixed, with Irish, Italian, and Puerto Rican children and some Black children, including a friend who was Black and Jewish. It continued to get more diverse as she went through school. The Scott Towers co-op was more Jewish, with fewer non-white minorities, attributed to the income requirement.

Newman’s grandfather was religious, but because she was a girl she did not attend Hebrew School and did not have a bat mitzvah until much later in life. Her mother gave up keeping kosher, but had to hide that from her grandparents.

Starting in 1977, Newman began teaching special education in junior high schools in the Bronx, describing how the Tremont neighborhood had deteriorated at that time and how she had some bad kids in her class but was never scared of them or their parents. She would take the subway for work, especially in her later job as an executive for Special Education Enrollment, and stressed the need to be alert but never feeling unsafe. Newman remembers being in high school during the 1967-1968 Teachers Strike. As an executive, she traveled around observing special education teachers and programs in the Bronx, trying to ensure that the students had the best education possible, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Newman would move out of the Bronx, first to New Rochelle then to Orange County, while her grandparents moved to Co-op City because the neighborhood was changing. She attributes this to a feeling that Jews generally like to be among other Jews. She never experienced any anti-semitism until she moved out of the Bronx and feels it was much easier to be Jewish there without needing to join a synagogue. Newman wishes everyone had the same diversity of experience and people that she had in the Bronx.

Key Words:

Highbridge, Scott Towers, cooperative housing, race, education, Co-op City, 1967-1968 Teachers Strike